Rhayader Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameRhayader Castle
Alternative NamesTower Mount; Rhaiadyr; Rhaiadr; Rhaedr Gwy; Rhaidr Gwy; Rhys Castle
Historic CountryRadnorshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys

The castle at Rhayader is possibly that built by Rhys ab Gruffudd of Deheubarth in 1177. It was destroyed in 1190 by the princes of Maelienydd, rebuilt in 1194 and again destroyed. These events might have concerned the castle mound across the river (NPRN 304969). In about 1200 the powerful Mortimer family either rebuilt the castle of founded it anew on this site, only for it to be captured in 1202. It was stormed and destroyed in 1231 by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth of Gwynedd. This was the principal if not the only castle in the territory of Gwerthrynion. By 1304 it was the 'site of the ancient castle', although it may have continued to have some legal role as a manorial centre, being refered to as a castle in 1316. The borough of Rhayader was probably established in the fourteenth century (NPRN 309594). The remains of the castle consist of a roughly rectangular platform about 50m north-east to south-west by 40m. It rests above headlong slopes or crags above the river on the north-west and southern sides, with a great rock cut ditch up to 10m wide and at least 4.0m deep, on the north and south-eastern sides. The entrance is likely to have been on the north side. There are indications of a bank or rampart on the eastern edge of the enclosure. Stone foundations are said to have been seen in the earlier nineteenth century. (Coflein–John Wiles, RCAHMW 31 July 2007)

Exploits a strong natural crag overlooking the Wye, and is defended on the north and east by rock-cut ditches with a causeway on the north-east. The castle was built by the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth, in 1177 at the fringes of his kingdom, and was rebuilt by him in 1194. This later work may have been reinforcement in the face of a threat, since shortly afterwards the castle fell to Maelgwn and Hywel, sons of Cadwallon ap Madog of Maelienydd, the adjoining kingdom to the east. They almost immediately lost it to English Mortimer forces, but it was soon regained by the Lord Rhys

"The castle of Gwrtheyrnion" (the Rhayader area) was again regained by the Welsh in 1202, although it is not clear how they had lost it. The site was probably disused by the early C14. (Burnham)

The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period. A castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but these were not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. Rhayader Castle is set on a promontory above the River Wye, with large rock-cut vertical ditch to north-west and a scarp to the river plain on the west and south. The site is open ground covered with rough grass. (Scheduling Report)

A charter of the 1180's proves that Rhys' castle was on the west bank of the Wye in Commote Dewdr and not actually in Gwrtheyrnion where current-day Rhayadr is. From this one piece of evidence it appears clear that Rhys' castle was the motte to the west of the Wye and the Norman castle the ringwork? with deep rock-cut ditch next to the church on the east bank. (Paul Remfry - pers. corr.)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSN968680
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  • Butler, L., 2009, 'The Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 27-36
  • Remfry, P., 2008, The Castles and History of Radnorshire (SCS Publishing)
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 250 (listed)
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 80-2
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Mid Wales (Malvern) p. 69
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 181
  • Remfry, P., 1996, Castles of Radnorshire (Logaston Press)
  • Gregory, D., 1994, Radnorshire: A Historical Guide (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Iard yr Orsaf)
  • Burnham, H., 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys (Cadw, London)
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea) p. 122
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 411
  • 1982, ‘The structure of an early castle’ Review of Projects (Clwyd-Powys, Archaeological Trust) p. 11
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 377
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 293
  • RCAHMW, 1913, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Radnorshire (HMSO) p. 137-8 no. 565 online copy
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 301 online copy
  • Davies, Edwin (ed), Williams, Jonathan, 1905, A General History of the County of Radnor (reprinted from 1858, Archaeologia Cambrensis (ser3) Vol. 4) p. 134
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy



  • Remfry, P., 1998, 'Discovering the lost kingdom of Radnor' British Archaeology Vol. 34 p. 10-11
  • Spurgeon, C.J., 1978, ‘Rhayader’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 18 p. 59
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Fox, A., 1944, 'Stone and bronze implements and iron linchpin from south-east Wales' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 98 p. 141
  • Sandford, 1882, Montgomery Collections Vol. 15 p. 82-3
  • Williams, J., 1858, 'History of Radnorshire - contd.' Montgomery Collections Vol. 13 p. 469-616

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1177, 1194 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1188, Journey Through Wales view online transcription
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 403


  • Remfry, P., 26/12/2005, pers. corr.
  • Silvester, R.J., 1994, Radnorshire Historic Settlements (CPAT report) p. 146 online copy